Minneapolis community groups donate $30,000 to East African-owned businesses after vandalism

Storefront glass is shattered on a few window panes on Franklin Avenue.
Several East African-owned stores on a stretch of Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis were vandalized on Sept. 18, 2019.
Mukhtar M. Ibrahim | Sahan Journal file

East African-owned businesses in Minneapolis that were vandalized in September received $30,000 in donations on Friday to cover the cost of the damage.

"We hope this small gesture from the community can help them rebuild and hopefully recover from the impact of this incident, but also show that this community will stand behind these businesses, even after the aftermath of this horrible hate attack," said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The Seward Community Co-op raised nearly $23,000 and CAIR, along with the Main Street Alliance, raised $7,000 through a GoFundMe fundraising campaign. The donations will go toward the more than $8,000 in estimated damage to the businesses, as well help cover the loss of revenue in the aftermath of the vandalism.

Hussein said they’re also asking the city of Minneapolis to consider matching the community donations.

Surveillance video showed a man, later identified as Harlin St. John, 36, throwing rocks at the glass windows of the shops along Franklin Avenue on Sept. 18.

St. John was arrested the next day and eventually was charged with several counts of first-degree property damage and lesser counts of property damage because of bias. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office reported that St. John allegedly asserted that he acted out of hatred for Somalis.

According to a report released by the FBI earlier this week, reports of hate crimes in Minnesota decreased last year for the first time since 2014, with only 126 reported in 2018. While 7,000 hate crimes were reported nationally in 2018, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that an average of 250,000 occur each year, with most going unreported.

September’s attack along Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis' Seward neighborhood rattled business owners, with many reporting loss of business due to potential customers’ fear. Hussein said the incident was a shock to community members, but he sees the community’s support of the businesses as a silver lining.

"Hate and anti-Muslim sentiment in this country is growing, and communities even as diverse as Seward should work to be alerted on hate movements and hate activity," Hussein said. "But at the same time, I think many of these businesses are grateful to see this large support."

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